A geothermic wonderland of hissing geysers, bubbling hot springs and natural silica terraces, the Orakei Korako Cave and Thermal Park serves up some of New Zealand’s most spectacular scenery and makes a popular day trip from nearby Taupo or Rotorua. Nicknamed the ‘Hidden Valley’, the park is the country’s largest and one of its most impressive thermal areas, with the all-natural scenery providing a suitably dramatic backdrop for a walking tour.
Take the bush walk through the heart of the park and you’ll be surrounded by untouched geothermal landscapes – gurgling mud pools, piping hot springs and steaming fissures interspersed with 35 active natural geysers, spurting steaming water up to 9 meters in the air. Most notable are the series of fault-stepped silica terraces, over which up to 20 million liters of water flow per day. The ‘Emerald Terrace’, aptly named for its striking jade-green color, is the largest of its kind remaining in the country; above it the terraces take on a rainbow of shades – blue, green, yellow, black – thanks to the hot water algae growing on their surface. The highlight of the park is the unique Ruatapu Cave, one of only two geothermal caves in the world and stretching 120 foot to the Waiwhakaata ‘pool of mirrors’ hot pool.